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Ohio public defender is supporting a sweeping criminal justice bill

Dan Konik
The Statehouse News Bureau

The Ohio Senate is debating a large piece of legislation which is nearly 2,000 pages and stuffed with changes to the criminal justice system.

The bill increases early release programs, changes the rules on denying release to "transitional control," and expands the ability to expunge records.

Among the supporters of SB288 is the public defender's office.

Niki Clum, legislative policy manager with the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, said expunging records can go a long way in helping people find a job and make a living.

"So this conviction -- that they have now shown they have been rehabilitated from, they have turned their life around -- that can no longer hold them back," said Clum.

Clum said the bill stops short of being transformational for criminal justice reform, however, the public defender's office supports the legislation, saying it takes many steps in the right direction.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association is against the legislation. Prosecutors said there are many provisions in the bill that have a negative impact on public safety and victims of crime.

For example, the group notes their opposition to the changes in transitional control release. The bill would remove the ability for a judge to deny early release to places such as halfway homes and community residential centers. The decision would be left to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

"Unelected employees of the executive branch should not be given the authority to override the decisions of the sentencing court," Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, writes in testimony to a Senate committee.

The bill is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.